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Dolls and Spoons and Little L's Play

Little L is a girly girl through and through. She likes bracelets and ballet and eating daintily and looking pretty. She even "puts on makeup" with a mini-kabuki bamboo brush that I ordered for her from Everyday Minerals.

That spoon needed a nap!
She is also very maternal and nurturing, preferring to cuddle and put her toys to sleep rather than have them attack one another or play rambunctiously. One of her favourite games of late has been to "cuddle" her figurines and sing them to sleep. When there is an absence of dolls (such as at the dinner table), she will substitute other random objects like cutlery in their place; the spoons and knives and forks get wrapped up in paper napkin blankets after lying down on makeshift pillows, and she will invent stories about the "mommy and daddy and baby" silverware and sing them to sleep. Heaven help us when the napkin falls down and one of these poor resting objects is woken up! Her imagination is certainly vivid ;)

I'd like to think that this type of play, this sort of girly nurturing, is innate and not the product of Little L's upbringing and exposure to media. We have allowed her to watch a few shows and movies on Netflix, but she generally sticks with Daniel Tiger, Pingu, and Super Why, all of which feature male protagonists and female friends, and don't tend to center on "girly" themes. Her familiarity with Dora and Doc McStuffins is limited at best (a book or an episode once or twice, and one "Nap Time" music video from the latter). She hasn't watched any of the Frozen movie, although she has seen the video for "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" a handful of times. Overall, I'd like to think that we have kept her influences mostly gender-neutral.

See? He doesn't really look like a good guy, but she doesn't know he's a villain. Sh!

It is therefore a surprise to us that she likes to do very maternal, very nurturing things with her stuffies and figurines and even Darkseid, a rather sinister-looking villain from DC Comics lore. In her care, Hubbs' poseable figurine has been subject to many undressings, a dance or two, some "feedings," and a *lot* of bed rest.

It's hard to argue that nature doesn't play a role in all of this, when clearly Little L's self-directed play tends to lean towards wanting to give homes and food and sweet sleep to these dolls. At our local bookstore (with the flagship Canadian "American Girl" shop inside), Little L can easily spend an hour playing with the displays. Her favourite set this past weekend was a new one, with monkeys in "Julie's Snack Set," and the Egg Chair that she deemed the bed of these little stuffed animals. I kid you not, she invented a full story about the two monkeys and their banana snack and going to bed and waking up and having meals. Hubbs and I watched her narrate her play and fuss around these toys for nearly an hour, until we begged her to move along to the actual bookstore. Thankfully the salesgirl in that department was very understanding!

Pushing Monk on the swings
We are 
intentionally trying to nurture and honour her interests, even though I would love it if she  branched out into less traditionally "feminine" realms. We are letting her take the lead in showing us what engages her, and trying to cultivate these interests further. In the spring, we will seek to enroll her in ballet classes. For her birthday or Christmas, we will be buying her a giant dollhouse (although figuring out which one to buy is proving a rather major headache). And we will continue wasting countless numbers of paper napkins to form makeshift bedding for her toys.

I do draw the line with "Bratz" and "Barbie" dolls. If Little L can find this much satisfaction playing with her Fisher Price Brother and Sister Puppy figurines, she does not need an anatomically-distorted girl doll in order to continue to play well, I reason. And of course, there are all of those body-image issues surrounding Barbies, and my desire to keep my girl away from poorly-behaved role models like those Bratz girls.

But I digress. It's so cool to see our little girl growing up and forming her own interests and preferences when it comes to her play. In the past, I felt like I really led the play by introducing the toys and showing her ways to interact with them. Now, she gets a toy and will start playing before I even have a chance to look at it closely. Child-led play indeed. 

Of course, we will continue to keep her media influences limited as long as we can, selecting fairly gender-neutral and diverse content for her little eyes. This of course means no cable, no commercials, and no Disney Princess movies for as long as we can hold out. It also means picking books with plots that offer lots of room for imagination and feature different kinds of problems that aren't typical or conventionally gender-specific (eg. no princess fairy tales here!). Likewise with iPad apps, we will be selective about the kinds that she is permitted to play. 

And although we are planning to indulge her girly play by buying toys that support it, we are also determined to keep introducing gender-neutral toys. Our most recent acquisition? Duplo! Of course, her very first thought was to request .... a house for her Miss Elaina figurine!  Sometimes you just can't fight nature.


Sharon said…
We are loving duplo around here too. Our boy, though, has been exposed to much gender specific media, and last night his favourite game was to use the duplo animals to smash the other blocks while watching the blocks fly in every which direction on impact. I don't know where he got that one from.... ;)

Oh - and those plan toys doll houses are dreamy. I will also consider those for my son. And the awesome thing is that you don't have to get all the furniture and doll families at once. Save the accessory sets for latter celebrations!
Sharon said…
I'd totally get this one for my son! Awesome!!

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